Book Design, Attention, and Reading Performance: Current Practices and Opportunities for Optimization

AbstractBecoming a proficient reader is a critical skill that supports future learning. Toward the end of the primary grades, reading becomes increasingly automatized, and children begin to transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. Yet, the design of beginning reader books may be suboptimal for novice readers. Colorful illustrations that contain irrelevant information (i.e., seductive details) presented in close proximity to the text may increase attentional competition between these sources of information; thus, hampering decoding and reading comprehension. Study 1 examines this hypothesis by experimentally manipulating components of the book design (e.g., presence/absence of seductive details) and investigating its effect on attention and reading performance in first grade students. In Study 2, we conduct an analysis in which we identify common design features in books for beginning readers and examine the prevalence of design features that were found to tax attention in Study 1 and in prior research. Collectively this work identifies an important opportunity in which instructional materials can be optimized to better support children as they learn-to-read.

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